The Libyan Affair continues to look more and more like an unresolvable morass, and the United States like a sucker for having dipped its military toe into a pool of tar. The AP reports today that NATO is agreed that Gadhafi “must go”, but also that “. . . they will not be the ones to oust him.” Behind the scenes the NATO countries are in disarray over how to proceed or who will supply military tools. There was this telling assertion:
But differences over the scope of the military operation persisted, with Britain and France insisting on more action, particularly from sophisticated U.S. surveillance and weapons systems, and U.S officials maintaining that the alliance already has the tools to get the job done.
Clearly, the U.S. is the repository of sophisticated weaponry and, most-notably, of satellite intelligence capabilities, both visual and electronic. Borne of the Cold War, our capability here is unmatched and has to be of critical importance in a conflict
like this air war where distinguishing between the two sides on the ground is unusually difficult. (Incidentally, the U.S. just launched another large NRO surveillance satellite last month.) Given the existence of such capabilities, their use is a given. So, we now have our “allies” arguing over how to use our resources. They need more
airplanes. They need more surveillance. They need more . . . Makes me wonder what they bring to the table, other than requisitions for more of everything.
A lack of clear military objectives is a classic formula for failure. It once again points to our failure to answer in the affirmative the Powell Doctrine’s eight questions before firing the first missile. I posted previously about how our intervention might, just might, come out ahead in this, but looks increasingly like that will not be the case.
This mess highlights the difficulty a civilized first-world has of standing by while a ruthless dictator threatens a bloody put-down of a resurrection, but our professed motive in intervention was hypocritical in this case. There were other resurrections in which we did not intervene. The president gambled and in my opinion he lost. The temptation to use those sophisticated tools and those missiles is apparently just irresistible. And, if we did it for humanitarian reasons, where now is the love we get for it?
The civil war in Libya looks increasingly looks like a stalemate between Gadhafi and the rag-tag “rebels” with their patch-work army of pickup rocket-launchers, but only because of NATO air support. Without that support they would clearly have lost by now.
Richard Engel of NBC Nightly News, who somehow seems always to be in the thick of things and whose opinion I have learned to respect, made a telling statement about the rebels the other night. When asked, “who are these people?”, he described them as being from “the Arab street”, and he went on to explain that despite their present aim of deposing Gadhafi, this term means that they are principally united by a common hatred of Israel. If this is true, then the U.S. and NATO are making a serious mistake in supporting them. We may be trading a cooperative ruthless dictator for another Iran or Syria.
We made the same mistake in deposing Saddam, a similar ruthless dictator who was using cruel methods to keep order in a nation of roiling tribal passions. Some may consider that action successful now that the ground war is technically over, but I don’t. The need to keep 50,000 combat troops there in readiness is hardly a measure of success and the new Iraq is a model of civil INSTABILITY.
How do we get unstuck from this tar baby?